Monday, October 30, 2017

Happy Halloween! I'm here to scare ya.

There are so many perfectly awful stories about which to write, it's hard to choose just one. So I won't.

The arrest of Paul Manafort should come as no surprise. Click here to read the full indictment for yourself. Frankly, I think this is the phrase that pays:
Statutory Allegations


(Conspiracy Against The United States)

37. Paragraphs 1 through 30 and 32 through 36 are incorporated here.

38. From in or about and between 2006 and 2017, both dates being approximate and inclusive, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendants PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., and RICHARD W. GATES III, together with others, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful governmental functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury, and to commit offenses against the United States, to wit, the violations of law charged in Counts Three through Six and Ten through Twelve.

39. In furtherance of the conspiracy and to effect its illegal object, MANAFORT and GATES committed the overt acts noted in Count Eleven and the overt acts, among others, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere as set forth in paragraphs 9, 16, 17, 20-25, 32, and 34-36, which are incorporated herein.
The other charges are well documented and easily proved, mostly thought tax and bank records. Conspiracy against the United States is a bucket charge, one that would have been called Treason in a time of war. However, we're not officially at war, so conspiracy it must be. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the IMPEACH TRUMP movement is gaining momentum. Please stop. You don't know what you're doing...unless you are trying to put even more right-wing true-believer conservatives into the oval office. Remember, Vice President Pence is a man with issues regarding availability of birth control. Unlike the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this one actually believes the rhetoric. And you want that behind the desk?

Not to be outdone by the crazy brigade, Sarah Huckabee Sanders insists these charges have nothing to do with the campaign or the White House. Is this woman on the same planet as the rest of us mere mortals? Does she think she is Chicolini?

How stupid does that woman think We, the People are? Wait. Don't answer that.  Here's the proof they all think we're too stupid to live. 

Feckless Leader has made the war on opioids his latest target:
The fact is, if we can teach young people — and people, generally – not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take them,...Really tough, really big, really great advertising, so we get to people before they start, so they don’t have to go through the problems of what people are going through.                                                                                                                    Oct. 26, 2017
Just say no? Been there, done that, got the D.A.R.E. t-shirts. Not only does this guy not understand the fundamental problem of over-prescription of opioids, he seems to think you can talk people outta taking pain-killers. He should hire Michele Bachmann's husband to spearhead this one. He thinks you can talk people outta being gay. 

Sometimes, I think all this sleight of hand, mouth, and brain is more than just intentional. It really is a conspiracy theory that preys on the idea that we will become inured to the outrageous and will choose to ignore it. And to some extent that might be spot on. We, the People, think of ourselves as too smart to fall for this, yet we are giving the fruit-loop contingent exactly what they want: free publicity ...and divisiveness. As long as they keep throwing Hillary Clinton over the wall, we keep batting right back at them with the DNC leading the charge. All this does is to divert us from reality. That is not useful. 

Last week, I promised an update on the aftermath of my sojourn in Israel. This is it:

I have a better appreciation for how Israelis become totally secular. I also have a greater appreciation for why I remain a practicing Jew. Observance frames my life in a way that gives me a point of reference for moral and ethical decision-making. 

Does this mean I think God has anything whatsoever to do with my place in Judaism or  my personal practice? No. (But that's another story for another time.)

Being in Israel, however, in an entirely separate matter. 

48 years ago, I was a 17-year-old kid in Jerusalem watching men walking on the moon on a teeny-tiny black and white television. A week later, I was observing Tisha'b'Av...the date that commemorates the destruction of both Temples, sitting on a hillside overlooking the Old City. I recorded the following:
never in my life have i felt like i belonged the way i feel like i belong here. it's knowing this is our beginning point. i wonder if the shinnecock feel the same way about long island. i bet they do.                                  July 23, 1969
[note to older self - lack of caps is the hallmark of a 17 year old brain.]

When I stood at the Kotel the first time, there was no viciousness, no hatred; everyone was still in that euphoric state of the new, golden period for a reunited Jerusalem. 

That was then.  This is now.

Jews come in all levels of belief and practice. My Judaism is rabbinic Judaism, not the frozen-in-the-17th-Century variety of the ultra-orthodox rabbanut. I do not believe the rabbanut has the right to dictate how all Jews are to be Jews.

Robinson's Arch prayer platform
Netanyhu's coalition, however, supports the stranglehold the rabbanut retains on Jewish life in Israel. Today, the Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told leaders of the Jewish Agency that the government will not fully implement the agreement for an egalitarian prayer space at Robinson's Arch away from the main plaza despite orders from the Israeli Supreme Court that they must do so. 

This was not warmly received. You see, even though Robinson's Arch is a second-rate location for second-rate Jews, away from the Kotel, We, the Diaspora, were willing to take this crumb because it was better than nothing. 

But here's the thing:

We, the Jewish People, are the indigenous people of that small strip of land called Israel. We, the Jewish people, built the cities. We, the Jewish people, have never left the land despite centuries of conquest, exile, and brutality. We are the indigenous people and we have the written and physical history to back up that claim. 

modern toes on an ancient road.
(photo by J. Tocker)

That said, we are not all the same. We are Eastern, Western, Northern, and Southern. We come from all continents in all colors these days thanks to 2000 years of Diaspora. We have a global range of cultural habits. We may say the same prayers, but we say them differently. We are not one-size-fits-all. And We, the Jewish People, all belong in Israel, not just the ones with stremls, payess, and silk knickers. 

We, ALL the Jewish People, will never abandon Israel. It is our homeland. It is where we began over 3000 years ago. 

Jerusalem, however, has abandoned me...and for the moment, I can live with that. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

If Stonehenge belongs to the Brits, the Parthenon to the Greeks, 
and the Colosseum to the Italians, 
then Israel is ours. 
No conquering army, no revisionist historian, 
no Johnny-come-lately crusader 
can change that 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Allow Me To Digest

A few days ago, I was sitting at my friend Jen's kitchen table in Herzliya just outside of Tel Aviv trying to draw a bead on how I would explain the experience of being in Israel. After all, it had taken me 48 years of yearning to get back there. Israel is such a complicated, complex place that even the air overwhelms the senses. Israel is the land of our birth as a people, the place we face for prayer, the landmarks of Torah, the repository of hopes and dreams, real history and revisionist history, real news that shakes one to the core of one's being, and fake news that just pisses people off. It is impossible to love it blindly unless you, yourself, are blind. 

And if you think Israel is an apartheid state, then you don't know what apartheid is and you shouldn't say shit like that unless you've been there and can personally illustrate that bit of antisemitic propaganda. Which you would not be able to do if you've ever been there in the first place. Israel may be a lot of things, but apartheid is not one of them.

The truth is, I cannot describe Israel quite yet. I will, at some point, be able to write about the journey, but the malingering end of jet lag and the lack of clearheadedness make it impossible to say much at this time. I need time to decompress. I need time to sort out the vast array of emotion/feelings/anger that Israel provokes

Yes, I said anger. 

And I'm already planning my next trip. 

Therefore, this is all you're gonna get tonight. 

Toes in the Dead Sea. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you have not been to Israel, go.
Your world view will change. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Harvey and the Nuclear Option

View from the Bay View Hotel
So Saturday night, I'm in a lovely hotel room in Haifa, thinking I would catch some news before I go to sleep. 


The channel that's supposed to be the BBC is a 24-hour fundraising thing for Christian fundamentalists. The other choice is FOX-News International. There was no news on FOX, only non-stop hate speech directed at Harvey Weinstein who probably deserves to be pilloried, but the level of screech-and-hate speech bordered on the antisemitic. I was riveted...for a while, anyway...and then my brain kicked in. I remembered what Feckless Leader said:
I did try and fuck her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch...I’m automatically attracted to beautiful ... I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet ... I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
If you were not outraged by Feckless Leader's pussy-grabbing comments caught on tape in 2005, then sit down and shut up now. You do NOT get to have an opinion because YOU are making this a political vendetta. It is not. Sexual predators come from all segments of the population, all races, all political positions, all religions, all occupations: 
  • Rep. Mark Foley (R. Florida)
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner (D. NY)
  • Rep. Jim Kolbe (R. Arizona)
  • Sen. Larry Craig (R. Idaho)
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
  • Woody Allen
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Bill Cosby
  • Roman Polanski
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Roger Ailes
  • Bill O'Reilly
  • Jerry Sandusky
  • James Woods
I could keep going but I won't. 

When I was a young director, being hit on was part of some weird rite of passage. Early in that process, I decided I was not going to sleep with anyone for the sake of my career, although I was propositioned multiple times. That was my choice; I knew other women who made other choices, and even thought knowing what they did pissed me off, it was their choice, not mine. I cannot imagine very many of my rather strong-willed directorial compatriots prostituted themselves outta fear; I think they used sex as a means to an end. 

And no, I still do not think that is okay. I didn't then and I don't now.

Actors, however, are a different story. Casting couches, as they have been called, are as old as theater itself. Best to try to figure out who isn't using a casting couch. Guys like Harvey Weinstein have been around for years. This is nothing new. And there isn't an actress alive who is not fully aware that this exists. And that there are choices. Being young and/or stupid and/or hungry just doesn't wash these days. Sorry. This is the age of instant media. You know better. 

That does not in any way excuse Harvey Weinstein who is not known to be a congenital idiot and should know better. He used dick as a weapon and should probably have it lopped off at the base for that. As should any other guy who uses his dick as a weapon in any circumstance. If you cannot be responsible for your own dick, you lose it. 

There. I said it. 

At the same time, you cannot start going around dredging up ancient history, declaring ME, TOO, and expect to have standing in a court of law. I'm not talking about the current Face Book movement for women to admit to having be victims of sexual predatory behavior. That is different so please do not confuse the two. 

I'm talking about the law. There is a statute of limitations on this stuff, so little that's now coming to surface is useful. What would be useful is every time someone attempts to use sex as a weapon, you stand up and scream NO to the rafters. Whether it's casting couch, or a pussy-grab, or dress-my-way-for-success issue, refuse. Whatever price you pay for saying NO is much cheaper than the price you will pay for giving in. 

And now that this is all coming out into the sunlight...there is support if you need it. 

Meanwhile, back at the White House, this is nothing more than a very convenient smoke screen. 

While Faux News is screeching endlessly about a <gasp> Hollywood liberal who no one thinks is right on an level, the guy in the Oval Office just signed an executive order that undercuts the availability of birth control while complicating the enrollment process for ACA and masking affordable plans. The only ones who benefit from the changes are the insurance charlatans who sell plans that do not meet the basic standards previously set when sold through "associations."

The same Moron-in-Chief de-certified the Iran deal immediately after telling North Korea to expect to be blown up any minute. In other words, the West Wing Cadre has managed to set up potential nuclear war on not one, but TWO fronts. Pushing Iran away from the deal only reinvests them with the power to start up their nuclear weapons program all over again. At the same time, threatening North Korea with annihilation only encourages them to increase their own stock-pile of nuclear weapons. These countries are not stupid. Iran and Korea know there is an seriously unstable guy behind the desk. And they are not going to sit around waiting for something to happen. 

Faux News, ever so helpful to the pussy-grabbing contingent, gave the West Wing Wackos the distraction they needed to push through more dangerous crap. 

And We, the People, too busy yelling "ME, TOO!"  failed to fully grok the notion that the warlock-hunt has taken precedence over very real, very important, and very dangerous news. 

Sitting in Herzliya right now, I can tell you an Iran with nuclear weapons is not an abstract idea. It is real, it is close, and it is part of daily existence. Under the umbrella of the deal, Iran was at the table, there was communication, and progress continued. Cancel the deal, and you're back to having a rogue nation armed to the teeth....pointed right where I'm sitting. 

Now, do you still want to talk about Harvey Weinstein?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Vote for vermin, wake up dead. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Follow The Money And Stray No More

There's an old saw that seems to be truer every year: if you want answers, follow the money. More than ever, We, the People are confronted by paper trails that are green. 

I'm not gonna list the different trails....just pick one, any one and you'll get the idea. Unless you are running for town council in a town with a population under 100, you are out there raising money. Your friends are donating, they're asking their friends, so forth and so on. But anything bigger than a small-town council is gonna take more money that most people have lying around in coffee cans under the front porch. It takes outside donors, sponsors like the kind that sponsor THE PRICE IS RIGHT. It means making your candidate appear to someone with a cheque book. 

Whose cheque book is important. Really important. The hand that is writing that cheque is not doing it as a cursive exercise; they are writing that cheque because something is in it for them. This is about quid pro quo; you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Folks, this is true whether you are Bernie Sanders or Donald Duck. 

Some is paying for those "Paid By..." ads running on radio and television. It's infinitely easier to follow that money than the bucks shelled out for Twitter and Facebook stuff. Our own Senator, St. Amy of Klobuchar sent out an email today:
Advertisers spent $1.4 billion on online political ads in the 2016 election. But there’s currently very little scrutiny for buyers of online ads. With the news that Russia paid for a number of online ads targeted at U.S. voters (including purchases in rubles!), isn't it time we had a system of accountability for online ads that matches the one we have for TV and radio ads?
She's right, y'know. If we haven't learned anything from the Russian extravaganza, then we are fools. At the very least we should be acting on what we do know to make social media giants behave responsibly when accepting ads. Other media has to live by rules; social media should be no exception.

No matter which candidate you are supporting for whatever race, whether it be Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Pastafarian, make sure you know who is writing those big cheques and make damn sure you're okay with the sources. If you are uncomfortable with any source of income for your candidate of choice, go shopping for another candidate. Every single voter in this country should be paying attention to the bucko-factor as closely as he/she watches the bank balance. If you don't pay attention to that number, you have other, more pressing problems.

For the record, I am actively supporting Angie Craig in the MN 2nd District Congressional rest. I like Angie. I've gotten to know her a bit, and I like the person who sat at my kitchen table explaining why I should support her campaign. But trust me to the Nth when I tell you I will be watching her donor list like a hawk. There is nothing worse than a donation from someone who has an agenda abhorrent to me. 

So as we head into the midterm cycle, I just wanna do a public service announcement today: 

On that note, I am shutting down for the night. Monday is going to be a crazy day. Many of you will read this a bit earlier than usual, but not to worry, I am not changing any of my late-night bad habits. On the contrary, by the time you read this, I will be off on a bona fide adventure. I'll be writing about it, but right now, it's Monday morning, 1:30 a.m. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Keep your eyes on New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. 
This is the guy who will ultimately know where the money came from 
and where it went. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

You are either with the USA or the NRA. You can't be with both.

I went to bed Sunday night having written a reasonably cogent first draft of this week's episode. I woke up to the Las Vegas massacre. 

Over-60-white-guy with no history of crazy, with a pilot's license, with a seemingly normal family, registers in  a  Las Vegas hotel, and then three days later, shoots up an outdoor concert from the 32nd floor. 

Law enforcement found a cache of 19 weapons and assorted accouterments of destruction in the hotel room. Keep in mind, Nevada is an open-carry state where semi-automatic machine guns and concealed weapons are legal. An unknown number of the semi-automatic weapons had been converted to fully automatic. 

Legally. With one of these.  And you can hide them under your coat. No prob. And you can fully automate the little buggers with with mail-order Slide Fire SSR you can order from Cabela's for less than $300.00. Yes, folks, you, too, can have all the fully automatic weapons you ever wanted...legally...pretty much without any questions being asked. 

Regardless of his motivation, the real truth is over-60-white-guy did not act alone. He had to have help, an accomplice. He had to have been aided and abetted by someone. The guns and the after market equipment had to be readily available to him. And they were. They were out there in every store that sells guns. From Cabela's to Walmart. Not to mention outta the trunk of any number of "gun show dealers." 

These are weapons of war. They are not hunting rifles. They are not sport rifles. These implements have one purpose and one purpose only: to kill people. 

Then, my cousin Howard posted this status on Face Book today: 

You are either with the USA or the NRA. 
You can't be with both.

And it got me to thinking. He's spot on. There is no half-way in this conversation; the NRA is the main purveyor of death in this country. They enable and encourage death by bullet. They are the handmaidens to every massacre we have seen in the last 42 years. 

The NRA made over-60 Stephen Paddock possible. They are the ones who act as his accomplice, who make sure over-60-white-guy can get the guns and the after-market supplies to automate said guns. Who else is out helping anyone and everyone to buy any kind of gun at any time? They are the suppliers and the fixers. They are the ones putting the bullets on the streets and into the bodies of bystanders. They hide behind their posh offices and pretend the are merchants selling a product. 

But it's not a product; it's death.

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
So what discussion should we be having? 
  • That over-60-white-guy has issues, maybe even a brain tumor that made him crazy and he's wasn't really responsible for his actions? 
  • That he should be labeled a domestic terrorist and rave accordingly?
  • That had more people been carrying guns, someone coulda taken this guy out from across the street?
  • That more than 4 dozen people are dead and more than 525 are wounded because he was not just able to buy semi-automatic weaponry, he was able to upgrade them to full automatic?
Or are we going to have a conversation, and ultimately a set of laws dealing with the ready availability of  semi-automatic guns ? Can we finally hold the NRA accountable for its active role in the continuation of mass murder in this country?

As desperately as we need that conversation, I don't think it's going to happen any time soon. The overly deep pockets of the NRA will continue its congressional purchase policy as long as they can. And they have successfully perverted the Second Amendment into something it was never meant to be: the right to kill.

Don't believe me....try this latest piece of destruction: 

The first responders in Las Vegas were able to find the shooter because they were able to triangulate initially by sound. They could hear the bullets, determine the direction from whence they came, and by using their ears and their eyes they were able to spot the window from which over-60-white-guy was shooting. 

Sound. Ears. Location. 

At the moment, the House is set to hear the "sportsman" bill that will make suppressors (aka silencers) easily obtainable. The NRA claims this is an "important safety-oriented aspect of the bill that will help protect the hearing of America's hunters." 

Sure it will. 

We cannot be a nation made up entirely of tootsie dicks. There cannot possibly be a significant segment of our population that really believes everyone should have access to  silencers, not to mention automatic weapons. There cannot really be people out there lobbying who actually believe adding a silencer to a gun is either sportsmanlike or will protect their hearing. These are the same people who roar around on ATVs and snowmobiles. They can't wear earmuffs like you wear on the lawn tractor or the home work shop? Really? 

I've written about the Second Amendment 5 times:
  1. July 23, 2012:             The Second Amendment ~ Stuff You Might Not Know         
  2. August 6, 2012:           The Second Amendment ~ Part 2                                    
  3. December 17, 2012:    The Second Amendment ~ Part 3: Enough Is Enough          
  4. May 6, 2013:               The Second Amendment ~ Part 4: Blown Away                 
  5. September 16, 2013:   The Second Amendment ~ Part 5: Gory, Gory, Hallelujah! 
I don't want to write about it again. Every year, we have a new "greatest mass shooting" in the US history. Makes it sound like a record to be broken, but it's not. It's a tragedy. Up until last year's presidential election, I actually hoped we might be on the path toward reasonable gun legislation. 

Apparently not.

Waiting for Congress to do something is what we do best. Expecting congress to do something is a pipe dream. The refusal to take up gun legislation has become a hallmark of our government. If the shooting was an "act of pure evil," then silence in the face of repeated mass shootings is an act of pure cowardice.

Of course, had over-60-white-guy been some other color or a practitioner of a different faith, well, that would be a very different story. The fallout would be spectacular. The conversation we would be having is not the one we need, but the convenient, divisive one that slapped label after label after label onto a human being regardless of applicability. Instead, we are wondering why a seemingly successful, reasonable human being like over-60-white-guy shot up a plaza. Already people are making excuses for him. 

Talk about white privilege. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Normal people don't send "warm" condolences; that's just weird.